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common question for candidates is, “Why are you running for this office?” It’s a good question, too.
For me, the original decision to run was based on two factors: first, I believe voters should always have a choice for every race on the ballot, and secondly, I view holding office as a public service and would like to help my community.
But that’s only part of the answer. Initially, I was reluctant to run. My wife, Natalie, and I have three young children. I have a full-time job as well as a couple of adjunct faculty positions. In January, I was dealing with a broken leg and surgery. Plus, there was the stereotype our society has about politicians: sleazy people who only want to acquire power and status, habitually lie to get what they want, and don’t care who they trample in the process.
I geared myself up for the first task: collecting 300 signatures to make it onto the primary ballot. It doesn’t sound too daunting, but you have three weeks to do it, and see above – there were a lot of reasons for me to be nervous. But I knew I could accomplish the task.
Then, on January 29, my wife wasn’t feeling well. It turned out that she was having a miscarriage. From TV or the movies, you would think that at least the physical part is over quickly. But that’s not true. Over the next several weeks, there were appointments and consultations and exams. A miscarriage, when you’re hoping for a baby, is devastating psychologically. Natalie also had the physical effects to deal with.
My plan for collecting signatures went out the window. Between trying to keep everything together for my family and dealing with my own physical impairment, I was able to visit only a handful of neighborhoods.
I resigned myself to failure. I thought about my hubris in saying I would run for this seat, only to fail to meet the first threshold.
But an amazing thing happened. Volunteers – some solely getting signatures for the 102, others who were also collecting for the US congressional candidates – stepped in. I got the signatures. I went to Harrisburg and filed the paperwork and made it on the ballot.
And I learned something.
It’s impossible for me to do this by myself. But there are enough people out there who believe in me, and who are helping me at each step, that it makes me work harder. It’s humbling to have people use their resources – time, money, social capital – because they believe in you. Humbling, but also inspiring.
So I would add a third reason to why I’m running. It’s because I can’t let those people down. The outcome is always framed as winning or losing, but this isn’t a zero sum game. I have a small window of time here to use whatever expanded platform this race offers me to highlight the issues that are important to all those people supporting me.
And here’s what I’ve heard: people want a fair deal for everyone, no matter the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or their income level. They want to be able to make a living wage for their hard work. They want great educational opportunities, including workforce training and childcare. They want access to healthcare. They want leaders who will base their decisions in science, data, and evidence.
Most of all, people just want to be treated with dignity and respect.
We will never agree on everything. But I promise that I will do my best to listen respectfully to your concerns and your perspective. I will seek to find common goals and propose solutions that will get us there. And if I fall short of those goals, because I am human, I will admit it and apologize.
You have a choice in who’s going to represent you in PA House District 102. I appreciate your consideration.
Finally, in terms of using my platform: October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. One out of every four recognized pregnancies ends in miscarriage. If you’ve experienced this loss, my sympathies. If you know somebody who has, let them know you’re there for them. Listen, give them a sympathetic ear, and remember that everyone may deal with it differently. Just being present for them means a lot.